The Winter Years
New Music Soon Come
Geoffrey Armes
About Parkinson’s
Geoffrey Armes - 2021-11-30 12:11:48+01:00

I was diagnosed in August 2020, although I’d been experiencing symptoms for a few years anterior, possibly as far back as my stroke in 2015…. At some point I found that I couldn’t play my own music (I just hadn’t practiced, surely) and riding the bike became noticeably more difficult (I was training wrong and getting older no big deal right? A sudden significant drop in form was normal, no? Train harder, harden up, don’t be comfortable, work).

Playing instruments became close to impossible as I lost control over very specific movements and capabilities born of and created by long hours of practice over many years.

By the time I needed to act Covid was a real issue in Berlin, a definite contributor to my hesitancy to get going. Eventually the mother of one of my students, a neurologist herself, after some observation of my movement packed me off to a practice that knew what it was doing, that in turn packed me off to a summer at various locations for appointments, tests, examinations and scans.

So there I was riding around on my green (single speed) bike like I owned the road and all my fitness thereof, fast and furious to every appointment like I was a fit cat, a cat who didn't really need to be visiting doctors with scanning machines and the like.

If I rode fast enough I'd beat them all into second place.

By August clearly it wasn’t to be, but relief in diagnosis was. I was validated. I wasn’t a whiner, I wasn’t fussing about unnecessary details or seeking to endorse some unknown laziness - I had - have - a real problem. And on offer were solutions that I greedily took. To date, drugs and physiotherapy.

A few months later, on a rainy day on a cold corner my physio told me “You have two super heroes on your side. The first is the drugs you take, the second is your will to exercise”. So I still ride the bike 100k weekly, even when it hurts and feels awkward. And I have been practicing daily, moving between piano and the guitars with the occasional visit to the percussion stand. I have created a lot of music, but more of that later.

The making of the Armes/Desisto album
G Armes - 2021-07-11 00:05:38+02:00

“In August 2020, after a year of being unable to play music, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.“

Shocked into action by his “life sentence” illness, but energised by the efficacious remedies available, Geoffrey Armes refused to be cowed. Fortified by medicinal drugs, he returned to full time music making at his residence in Berlin. The diagnosis had been a long time coming, as the unwelcome shadow of Covid 19 had darkened the world, slowing Armes’ will to go out and be diagnosed and treated until the threat was (partially) lifted in the summer.

He felt that this music was going to be significant, for him at least. “Well, it was quite possibly my last opportunity to say anything, whether trivial or serious, in my own voice,” Armes explained. “Drug therapy and Parkinson’s interactions are noticeably fickle, and at 64 how much energy did I have left anyway?” he wondered. “I knew I wanted to pull in and interweave a wide variety of styles and influences and have a colourful pallet”. And he didn’t want to work alone, craving the yin and yang, to and fro and artistic edge of at least a duo situation if not a band.

Over the years - decades even - Armes had maintained a working relationship with Tom Desisto, now based in Woodstock, NY. They had met in “the City”, introduced by a mutual friend when Armes first arrived in NYC from Berlin.

They’d ended up playing in bands together, scoring choreography and advertisements together, hanging out on the corner watching people pass by together, and eating together at the restaurant that was equidistant for the both of them - Charlie Mom’s at 11th and 6th in the West Village.

Of course months and years flowed by - Armes was busy in Concert Dance studios in NYC but also Tokyo, London, Berlin etc., and Desisto was as likely to be in LA accepting an Emmy nomination or scoring a movie as he was in his commercial studio by Union Square.

And then first Desisto left Manhattan, moving to the country, and then Armes packed up and moved his family back to Berlin.

Armes began writing and recording in his studio, relishing the return of the mastery to his hands and letting emotion and awareness seed what he was creating in a new way. He let Desisto hear the track “Threshold World”, and then Desisto approached him, stating frankly, “You should make an album.”

Most of the songs on the album seem to deal with being in two places at once, or between places, on journeys. Some of them are fantasies about life before life or after death, some about being in trains, some about ambivalent relationships.

10 July 2021 in Berlin